Gatwick chaos should be ‘wake-up call’ for airports

 UK airports must improve their contingency planning to prevent the type of chaos seen at Gatwick on Christmas Eve

Gatwick airport control tower

This was one of the main findings of a report by the House of Commons’ transport committee into the disruption at the Sussex airport in December when the flooding of a North Terminal basement caused the failure of some electrical systems, leading to 72 flights being cancelled.

Transport committee chairman Louise Ellman said the incident, which affected more than 11,000 passengers, should act as a “wake-up call” for airports to improve their “operational resilience”.

“Many staff at Gatwick – working for the airport, the airlines, and other operators such as the baggage handlers – worked extremely hard to keep flights operating on Christmas Eve and to look after passengers, but the problems that unfolded were not new,” said Ellman.

“Airports must ensure that their contingency planning is good enough to ensure that future disruption will be met with well-drilled arrangements that are familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, and which put passenger interests first.

“Passengers need accurate and consistent information, must be able to identify who is in charge during periods of disruption, and should have ready access to toilets and drinking water. If our largest airports cannot demonstrate they can look after passengers’ interests in this way then the CAA must act.”

Gatwick, which has already published its own 70-page report on the Christmas Eve chaos, said it fully accepted the committee’s recommendations.

“Following the events of Christmas Eve, Gatwick set aside a £30 million resilience fund and immediately began projects to strengthen flood defences,” said the airport in a statement.

“In partnership with its airlines, extensive work has already been undertaken to improve contingency plans and passenger welfare in times of disruption.”

The full recommendations of the transport committee are as follows:

Airports should develop (in consultation with airlines) much clearer operational protocols and guidance on the threshold conditions that will trigger the cancellation or postponement of flights.

Airports should negotiate robust agreements with airlines (which carry formal responsibility for passenger welfare) for reclaiming the costs of looking after passengers during periods of disruption.

CAA should bring forward proposals by autumn 2014 to improve routine provision of information to passengers about their rights at times of disruption.

CAA must come back to Parliament with evidence that progress is being made to improve the quality and efficacy of contingency plans for both Heathrow and Gatwick and to ensure these plans are properly tested and widely disseminated.

Government should push for amendments to a proposed new EU regulation on passenger compensation to include electronic means of alert and information dissemination.

Sourced from TTG Digital


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